After watching tape of Monday night's 24-10 loss to the Rams in Los Angeles, Bears coach Matt Nagy on Tuesday discussed three things that stood out to him in the game:
(1) The lack of time that Nick Foles had to throw was a major factor in the offense's lackluster performance.
Foles was under constant pressure from a Rams pass rush that registered four sacks and eight quarterback hits. He frequently couldn't step into his throws or wait long enough for receivers to get open down the field, and was often forced to get rid of the ball before the play developed as schemed.
That's exactly what happened early in the third quarter when the Bears trailed 10-3 and faced third-and-6 from their own 5. Rookie receiver Darnell Mooney froze three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey with a tantalizing double move, streaking downfield wide open. But Foles had to unload the ball before Mooney broke into the clear because outside linebacker Jachai Polite was bearing down on the quarterback.
"If he probably had just a half a tick more, that probably would have been a 95-yard touchdown," Nagy said. "It's just one of those unfortunate plays we didn't hit. Man, that would have been so nice to hit that and tie the game up at 10-10."
On a play earlier in the game, on third-and-5 from the Rams' 27, it appeared that receiver Anthony Miller was breaking open over the middle beyond the first-down marker. But Foles was under heavy pressure from three defenders and was forced to throw off his back foot to Mooney for a 3-yard gain. Instead of sustaining the drive, the Bears were forced to settle for Cairo Santos' 42-yard field goal.
"When [playing] quarterback is hard is when you can't step into your throws," Nagy said. "So when you guys are watching tape and you are looking at things, that's the biggest thing we want to make sure with our offensive line … I'll say this, too: Playing offensive tackle, when that's hard is when you're too deep in the pocket as a quarterback and you get edged. So there is a little bit of balance there in regards to, when you take your footwork, are you protecting your tackles by setting up in the pocket? And then when you [want to] step up in the pocket, do you have the ability to step up in the pocket or not?
"That's what's hard is making sure you have both of those. We're working on all that right now, and it's a little bit of a process and we are fighting through it. And we're going to continue to work each and every day to get as best as we can at that quarterback position doing that and at the tackle position doing that."
(2) Rookie tight end Cole Kmet continued to impress in limited action, seemingly earning more playing time.
The second-round pick from Notre Dame caught both passes that were thrown his way, a sensational 38-yard reception and a 7-yarder. The 38-yarder came when he leaped over a Rams defender to haul in a 50/50 ball from Foles. At the time, it was the Bears' longest pass play of the season.
Kmet has now made two catches in each of the last two games after being limited to one reception in the first five contests of the season. He has continued to play a little over 30 percent of the Bears' offensive snaps this year.
"I think it's pretty evident with what Cole's been doing here since we got out of training camp and into the season," Nagy said. "Now, you never know how he's going to be the first couple games. It's not easy. Your first NFL game, your second NFL game, your third. And now here we are and we've played seven games. When you think about it, you look down seven years from now when he's having an unbelievable career, you're going to think, 'Man, we were getting that antsy at seven games into his first year.' But the fact of the matter is that you saw [Monday night], he's making plays.
"There's a trust element there I think you're starting to really see and it's growing. And when you have a ball thrown your way when you're absolutely covered, and you make a play, that's neat to see … Cole has done everything we've asked, and it's no hidden secret that we want to get him more involved in this offense, whether that's in the run game and/or the pass game. But for sure, he's doing a great job."
(3) Nagy acknowledged that there were two punts that veteran Ted Ginn Jr.—the replacement for the injured Tarik Cohen—could have caught.
The Rams dominated the field-position battle thanks to Johnny Hekker landing all five of his punts inside the Bears' 10-yard line. Ginn couldn't have done a whole lot to prevent that, but he could have saved a few yards with a couple of fair catches. The 14-year NFL veteran didn't catch any of Hekker's punts; one went out of bounds at the 7 and the other four were downed at the 10, 1, 6 and 5.
"I think there were probably two that he had that he probably could have at least caught that he didn't," Nagy said. "But you also have to give credit to the Rams. They did a good job of the way they were punting and where they were punting it. That's part of the equation too."
Ginn has served as the Bears' punt returner in their last four games, averaging 4.8 yards on five returns with one fair catch.
Cohen was lost for the season with a torn ACL in a Week 3 win over the Falcons when, after fair-catching a punt, an Atlanta player rolled into his lower leg. The 2017 fourth-round pick from North Carolina A&T was named first-team All-Pro and voted to the Pro Bowl in 2018 after averaging 12.5 yards on 33 punt returns.
"Obviously when you lose a guy like Tarik, he's one of the best in the league at returning punts, that's a big blow," Nagy said. "We're not seeing some of the stuff we're used to seeing, and that happens sometimes when you have an elite player like Tarik back there."